Full disclosure: A review copy of Torres was provided by IDW Games.
More from IDW! This time it’s Torres, a classic game of knights and castles and stacks and such. There’s been a whole bunch of wars and the king’s castle is basically in shreds. Naturally, that’s a bummer, since you need at least some of the roof to keep the rain out. It’s okay! The king has a plan. He’s talking to his children (the rulebook says among his sons, but there’s no practical reason why it can’t be his sons and daughters so, that’s what we’re going with) and has decided to basically will the castle to whoever can rebuild it the best. Will you be able to build and inherit the kingdom? Or will you be stuck with the rubble?
First thing, you should probably set out the board:
Now give each player some knights:
The knights are … definitely a shape, I suppose. Try not to dwell on it too much. Give each player a set of Action Cards in their color:
If you want to try a particularly spicy variant, you can mix everyone’s Action Cards together and make that one Action Card pile.
You’ll want to give each player an Action Summary (Codex) card:
Next thing you should do is take the Year card corresponding to the player count:
That will tell you how many of these you should give each player for the first Year:
Also, put one on each of the 8 spots on the board. They’re marked. Those are the starting Castles! Now, choose a player to start — they’ll each place one of their knights on one of the starting castles, as long as it’s unoccupied. Knights aren’t really interested in sharing. Whoever goes last takes the King:
That goes on an unoccupied castle as well. The King shares with no one. Makes sense.
Once you’ve done all that, you should be ready to get started!
The game is played over a few years, which is composed of several seasons, which is composed of 5 Action Points. Once you’ve spent your 5 Action Points, your turn ends and you move on to the next turn.
One thing that’s important between each Season is that you should focus on the towers of blocks you were given:
Each tower is only usable for one Season, so keep those together. Don’t mix them up or split them.
Now, on your turn, you have 5 Action Points, as previously mentioned. You may take your actions in any order, and you may repeat the same action multiple times. Each action, however, has a cost:
- Place a Knight (2 AP): You’ll need extra knights if you want to win, and this is how you get them. If you still have Knights that aren’t on the board, yet, you can place them on any space on the board that’s orthogonally (not diagonally) adjacent to one of your current knights. They sorta … just bud off. It’s deeply upsetting but you try not to think about it too much. Few rules on placement:
- Must place orthogonally adjacent to an existing knight. No diagonals.
- You may only place knights on the same or lower levels. I usually just tell people to imagine the knights are all on rollerskates, but yeah that’s just how it works. Each Castle Block vertically stacked is one level — the board is Level 0 (similar to NMBR 9), the first block is Level 1, two in a stack is Level 2, etc.
- Move a Knight (1 AP per space): This one is interesting. You may move your knights (or as many knights as you want) as many spaces as you want, provided you have action points for them. Movement specifically has a few rules:
- Like Santorini, you may move up one level per Action Point if the blocks are orthogonally adjacent to each other. Similarly, you may move down as many levels as you want.
- You may only move onto unoccupied squares. Other knights, your own knights, and the King all block your movement.
- You may move through all contiguous blocks in a Castle (going “in” one block and coming out any other block on the same level or lower) for 1 AP. That’s handy, so don’t forget that you can do that.
- Expand a Castle (1 AP per castle block): So this is where the Towers become important. Each Tower is meant to indicate how many Seasons are left in the year. When you build, you pick one of the Towers, and you may build using any number of blocks in that Tower and only in that Tower. This means you can build a maximum of 3 blocks per turn.Once you’ve finished your Season, you must distribute the remaining blocks in the tower between your remaining towers (even if you didn’t build this Season). If it’s the end of the Year, distribute the remaining blocks onto the Towers you’ll get at the start of next Year. If any Tower has more than 3 blocks on it, now, put blocks back in the Supply until each remaining tower has only 3 blocks on it. You can only gain new Towers at the start of a Year.So, now onto actually building. All the contiguous blocks in a Castle that are on the table compose the base of the Castle. That has a certain size (the number of blocks, specifically). Keep that in mind for these building rules:
- When you build, you may not build onto the Castle such that its level is higher than its base. For example, if you have a 2×2 square as the base, the castle may be 4 levels high, as the base is size 4.
- Castle blocks must always be added to an existing castle; you may build on top of blocks (following the rule above) or adjacent to a Castle, with one caveat:
- You may never join two Castles. Castles can touch diagonally, but never horizontally or vertically. If placing a block would cause two Castles to become joined, you cannot place that block. So don’t do that.
- You cannot build on an occupied space. No building on top of knights or the King — the loud construction noises are bad for their hearing. Very rude.
- You may build on more than one castle per turn, as long as you don’t place more than 3 blocks in one turn.
- Buy an Action Card (1 AP per card): This is nice, as Action cards let you have abilities that can break the rules, such as getting extra Action Points on your turn, building underneath of your knight, or moving for free. They’re great! When you buy an Action Card, draw 3 from the top of the deck and keep one. For each of the remaining two, you may decide whether you want to put them back on top of the deck or on the bottom. That’s kind of an interesting mechanic and I haven’t seen it in many other games. It allows you to save a good draw for later. One note: You cannot use Action Cards in the same Season you bought them. That would be weird. You can, however, have as many as you want.
- Play an Action Card (0 AP – it’s free!): You may play one and only one (whoops, definitely messed this one up in the past) Action card each Season. When you play an Action Card, you also remove it from the game. So, you’ll only get one of those.
- Move your Knight 1 space forward on the Scoring Track (1 AP per space): If you still have AP left and don’t want to draw cards for some unknowable reason, you may spend your remaining AP to gain points. If you would move onto a space that your opponent occupies, well, remember, knights hate sharing, so just hop to the space in front of them instead; I’m sure they won’t mind.
Once all the Seasons have passed, the Year ends! Now onto scoring.
When you score, you score each castle individually. For every Castle that you have at least one knight on, you’ll score points! How does that work?
Each player scores points for their knight on the highest level of the Castle (so if you have multiple knights in the Castle, only the highest knight scores, and for good reason!) by multiplying the knight’s level times the base of the castle. So a knight on level 4 of a castle with 7 tiles in its base would score 28 (4 x 7) points! Other players’ knights don’t affect your score; it’s all done independently.
There’s also a bonus for the Castle with the King in it! You didn’t forget about the King just because it was like, 1000 words ago, right? Of course not, you say; you love the King, you add hastily. Each Year, the King scores differently:
- Year 1: You score 5 bonus points if you have a knight in the same castle as the King on Level 1 (the King can be on any level).
- Year 2: You score 10 bonus points if you have a knight in the same castle as the King on Level 2 (the King can be on any level).
- Year 3: You score 15 bonus points if you have a knight in the same castle as the King on Level 3 (the King can be on any level).
Basically, hang around the King.
It’s a bit unclear in the rules, but the same rule about the Scoring Track applies, here. If you’d land on a space occupied by another player, jump over it to the next empty space. I generally take that to mean that you skip over other players’ knights as you move around the board.
If the game hasn’t ended yet, move on to the next Year! The player with the fewest points can choose to move the King to any castle, now, and place the King on any level. They also get to choose which player goes first, next Year.
At the end of the third Year, the player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
Honestly, and I know that this isn’t quite true, but it reminds me enough of Santorini that I’d probably just play that at two. This is MUCH more of a strategy game than Santorini’s tactics game, though, so it might be good for you. I just wouldn’t personally play it at two since I’ve already got that and it’s much faster (which, as you might know, I generally prefer faster games). At three and four, however, it’s very good. It’s not particularly aggressive (beyond blocking), as the game specifically notes that attacking your fellow siblings is forbidden. Instead, you have to block strategically, build intelligently, and plan strategically if you want to win. If you’re looking for a solid 3 – 4 player game that has some nice construction, building elements, this is the player count I’d recommend it at.
- Always try to get into the King’s Castle. It’s basically free points for a fairly low amount of effort, plus you get the points for being on that level of the Castle, as well. Always go for double points.
- Be smart about drawing cards. You can only use one per season, so if you have 8 cards in hand by the start of Year 2, some are going to go to waste. That’s not particularly efficient, so I’d recommend against it.
- Try to prevent other players from expanding their Castle (and preventing you from expanding yours). The biggest Castle in the land is great, provided you can build high enough to make it worth it. So … do that. If you place your blocks such that other players can’t build and make their castles larger, however, they’re going to try to hop onto yours. And you kind of … need them to?
- Take advantage of other players when you can. If a player builds and moves to Level 3, they usually have a set of blocks going up to Level 2 that they can use. This means you can follow them and maybe try to get even higher! Naturally, that might be difficult, but it would also prevent them moving up at all.
- Be aggressive with how you move the King. Is a player on Level 4 and just moving between blocks to get up? Place the King on one of those blocks. Now that player either needs to move another knight into the castle (kind of a waste) or they need to move that knight down. Bonus points if you’re already at the correct level when you move the King into that Castle! You can avoid doing much.
- Don’t forget that moving through a Castle is only one movement. It’s a great way to get through all the huge Castles that other players are going to build if you’re trying to get to the King’s Castle or something quickly. It’s also useful if you want to get to high-scoring Castles.
- Don’t forget about Action Cards. Some of them let you have extra AP, some of them let you jump over pieces or jump up two levels! They make your actions difficult to predict, which makes you a particular kind of dangerous. If you’re predictable, opponents can block you. If you’re unpredictable, you might be able to trick your opponents into making a mistake.
- I don’t think spending AP to move up the Scoring Track is useful. Unless it’s the last round of the game, I suppose? Otherwise you might as well draw Action cards.
- Get your knights on the board. The more knights you have, the more Castles you can score. If you can’t score with them this Year, you might be able to use them to block your opponents (move into a new space and place a knight in the space you just vacated). It’s rude, but … it works?
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Cool building aspects. I really enjoy building in games, in general. It’s part of why I like tile-laying games so much — there’s a tangible feeling of accomplishment, even if you didn’t win. It’d be nice if the pieces for Torres were a bit bigger, but honestly it’s a very nice tactile sensation to stack the blocks and make even taller towers than the three-level ones you can get in Santorini (four if you count the domes, I suppose).
- The extra variants are nice, as well. There are all kinds of things you can do with the rules that I didn’t cover, here (too many variants), especially with the Master cards to change up gameplay if it starts to get stale.
- Nice bit of strategic play, in opposition to say, Santorini’s more tactical play. I like that you can try and make more long-term decisions without having to worry about immediately losing (like you do in Santorini, especially with some of the God Powers). I think it’s sort of the opposite end of the axis in that regard — it’s longer, meatier, and more strategic, whereas Santorini is primarily a tactics game, in my opinion. That’s good for me, since it means there’s room for both in my collection.
- I really like the “move through Castles” ability. It makes the board a lot more mobile as the game progresses (since castles tend to get larger), meaning you can pretty frequently pop between halves of the board to either explore new castles or move around obstacles, should they present themselves.
- I really appreciate the lack of “take-that” options. It lets you strategize without having to worry about your towers getting totally destroyed or broken up, which is my personal preference as far as gameplay goes. The blocking adds an interesting element, which is always good, as well.
- The knights aren’t super stable, and since they’re super tall you just kind of end up knocking them over all the time when you’re playing the game. It’s just a little annoying, okay? And it’s a very specific problem that I and others have had. It’s exacerbated a bit when you finally have high towers, as you’ll frequently knock
- The Scoring Track rules are a bit unclear. It’s not super clear if you score all your points at once and then move your knight, only skipping if you end up sharing a space with an opponent, or if you score each point one at a time, meaning you always get a “free” point if you “land” on the same space as your opponent. I feel like I’m reading too much into this.
- The knights are also vaguely phallic and that makes it kind of … weird. Just like a very specific issue, but hey whatever. Earned me an awkward conversation at my work team’s weekly board game lunches.
- The Towers rule for building doesn’t make immediate sense to a lot of new players, in my experience. Just make sure to emphasize it a few times when you explain the rules. It’s probably one of the trickiest parts of the game.
- Bit long with new players. I can imagine it’s very good once everyone knows the game and you can kind of breeze through it, but your first game will probably take the full 60 minutes to play (and maybe 10-ish more to teach). I sort-of-played a game against myself and it went much faster (~45?), so that really moves it into a more playable zone, for me.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, Torres is super! It’s a bit on the meatier side, so it won’t hit the table as much as some of my shorter games, but it’s a solid entry in that area. It has all the things I generally like in a game: a sense of accomplishment after the game ends, a cool type of building, and fairly non-aggressive gameplay. They’re all good aspects for a game, even if the theme is a smidge generic (to be fair, this is a fairly old game, so, not totally its fault). It would be nice if the pieces were a bit bigger and had heavier bases (to prevent them getting knocked over as much), but that’s not the worst thing in the world, just a bit annoying. If you’re looking for a solid, strategic game and you’ve got 3 – 4 people in your group, Torres is pretty great! I’d recommend checking it out.